Orvis CFO II Review

July 2, 2015
Orvis CFO II
Orvis CFO II Orvis-CFO_2
Drag Performance
Line Pick-up
Ease of Spool-Changes
Durability / Abuse Resistance

The Good

  • Lightweight
  • Classic look matches well with bamboo or fiberglass rods
  • Made in USA

The Bad

  • Small spool size means slower line retrieval
  • Expensive
  • Simple drag

The Orvis CFO II offers traditional anglers the option of a brand new reel built in a classic style. The CFO, made in California, features a classic click-and-pawl drag system that functions well but can be hampered by grit and grime when fishing in rough terrain. The machined aluminum reel proved nearly indestructible after a season of heavy use in a range of conditions. 


The Orvis CFO reels of 2015 turn back the clock to the early days of the model’s life. From the machined aluminum construction to the click-and-pawl drag system, the CFO is a reel ideally suited for traditionalists and minimalist anglers.

Drag and Line Management
The click-and-pawl drag—a system that has been used for decades—works wonderfully on the CFO II, though I did find it could get a little finicky if the reel was exposed to lots of grit and grime. Accidental dunkings of the reel into sediment-heavy spring run-off streams created a bit of a catch in the system. A quick rinse from my waterbottle cleared the minor problem, but the incident was noteworthy. 

The reel also proved the slowest in the test at line retrieval. The traditional small-arbor and spool diameter means lots of cranking to pick up line.  

Durability and Design
The machined aluminum frame and spools proved tougher than I expected in so small a package. This little reel took an unexpected fall off my truck’s bumper when I forgot it there and drove out of the parking area. Though I likely only got up to 10 or 15 mph before it was jettisoned, I caught sight of it in my mirror and it bounced at least twice before rolling into the grass-lined ditch. A few minor scratches were the only issues.

The look of the CFO is a throwback to the days before fly fishing became mainstream (i.e. before “A River Runs Through It” hit theaters). Its classic design and simple functionality make it a nice visual match for a bamboo or glass rod.



Testers used a selection of salt-water reels fitted with 8-wt lines in a variety of conditions. The reels were used in pursuit of bonefish and permits in Belize, Mahi Mahi and assorted reef fish in Hawaii, and salmon, steelhead and sea-run cutthroat in Puget Sound. We loaded the reels with 30-pound backing and fished both weight-forward floating lines and sink-tip lines.



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